With cornerback Chris Harris Jr. battling a nagging shoulder injury, the Denver Broncos promoted practice-squad corner Taurean Nixon to the active roster Tuesday, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio.
A seventh-round pick out of Tulane, Nixon is filling the spot on Denver's roster that was occupied by safety Omar Bolden, who was placed on season-ending inured reserve with a knee injury, according to the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson.
Nixon has yet to log a snap in a regular-season contest after serving as a member of Denver's practice squad all season long, but Andrew Mason of the team's official website indicated the rookie will be able to provide depth at cornerback and versatility on special teams.
Harris originally hurt his shoulder in the Broncos' Week 17 win over the San Diego Chargers, but the shutdown cornerback didn't make a fuss following a collision with tight end Antonio Gates.
"He hit me straight on my little bone here, but I'm good I'll be back," Harris said on Jan. 4, per the Denver Post's Cameron Wolfe. "I'll be straight."
But after slogging through the Broncos' 23-16 AFC Divisional Round playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Harris told reporters the injury is far more serious than he initially let on. Dealing with a deep bone bruise, Harris opined that his ailment was actually more severe than the one dogging Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"My shoulder's way worse than Ben's," Harris said, according to the Denver Post's Mike Kiszla. Harris later added that he "played with one arm the whole game."
And as Kiszla explained, Harris has been arguably the most dependable player on one of the league's elite defenses: "During the regular season, Harris almost never left the field for the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense. He participated in 1,063 defensive snaps and sat out only 33 plays. By comparison, All-Pro linebacker Von Miller played 835 snaps, which translates to 14 fewer plays per game than Harris."
Harris played just 75 percent of Denver's snaps in the win as Bradley Roby assumed a larger role opposite Aqib Talib. In fact, Roby forced Pittsburgh running back Fitzgerald Toussaint to fumble on a critical fourth-quarter possession to flip momentum in the Broncos' favor.
Looking ahead to the AFC Championship Game, Denver will likely need to lean on Roby a bit more if Harris' shoulder injury remains bothersome. Therefore, the Broncos added Nixon merely as a safeguard against another crippling injury to their secondary.
NFL Network's James Palmer shed some more light on Harris' limitations in advance of the title game showdown:
Expectation is Chris Harris won't be able to use his hands as much vs Edelman at the line bc of his shoulder. Having to play off is trouble— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 19, 2016
But based on the chops Roby has flashed to date, the Broncos must have at least some confidence that the second-year man can hold his own on the outside. However, he should be ready for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to direct heavy doses of targets his way with Talib operating as a shutdown force on the other side.